"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, August 21, 2009

Evolution of a Carrot

One of the rewards of saving your own seed is being able to watch the process from start to finish, the plants evolution if you will. I am always amazed as I watch various plants develop seeds. Each one with the same goal of procreating, but with vastly different modes of delivery.


Interestingly enough, one of the more unusual seeds I am saving this year comes from a very common vegetable...the carrot. Your average carrot, being a biennial plant, has to be overwintered before it will produce viable seed, unless it bolts like some of my Lunar White ones did...a little too hot this summer. I held over and replanted my best carrots so they could finish their life cycle and provide us with seeds for the next generation of carrots in our garden.

After the carrot flower is pollinated by insects, it forms into a rounded umbel.



Carrot seeds, and many seeds for that matter, from one's own garden are slightly different then the ones cleaned and shipped out by the seed companies. Having flowered, the carrots spiny little seeds form atop an umbel that eventually dries at which point the seed is ready to be harvested.

The dried umbels eventually break off and blow away in the wind as a tumbleweed, dispersing seeds as they roll along.


Each individual flower produces a pair of seeds, the below carrot seeds are really two seeds slightly attached.

18 comments:

Silke said...

Hi Mike, you take the coolest photos and make everything look so incredibly fascinating! I've seen carrot seeds before, but they never looked that good to me... Looks like you are getting lots of seeds from just one flower! I just collected some zinnia seeds for next year - one of my favorite flowers! Have a great Friday!! :) Silke

Susan said...

Thank you for those pictures, I've never seen carrots go to seed before.

Ruralrose said...

Perfection in a blog post - sublime - if people only knew the awesomeness of plants - thanks, peace for all

Mr. H. said...

Silke,

Thanks, I think we have about 35 carrots going to seed and each one puts out more then one umbel full of seeds. So yes, there will be quite a few seeds. Carrots suffer from inbreeding depression, so you want seeds from quite a few to assure you don't end up with inferior seeds.

My wife loves zinnia's as well, they are a nice late summer annual in our neck of the woods. They always look good this time of year when other flowers have gone to seed.

Mr. H. said...

Susan,

Cool, that's why I posted the pictures. Almost everyone that visits our garden is really surprised to see what carrots looked like in the second year. If you can hold them over they are actually a pretty easy plant to save seeds from.

Mr. H. said...

Ruralrose,

Thanks, the intricate nature of all things untouched by man is a constant source of facination with me. It really makes you think.

Granola Girl said...

This was a wonderful post. I am new to seed saving and am starting slowly with easy things like peas and spinach. However, the hope is that within three years we can save most all of our seed ourselves. Posts like this one make that all seem a bit more possible. Thank you for the encouragement and hope!

Mr. H. said...

Granola Girl,

That's really great, it takes a bit of effort but in the end is worth doing for the knowledge aspect alone.

We save a large percentage of our own seeds at this point, so if you ever have any questions please feel free to ask...really. The trick is to save seeds from a few more plants every year so as to not become overwhelmed by the project.

Stefaneener said...

Nice pictures! Carrots really show their relationship to Queen Anne's Lace, don't they?

How did the muslin bags work out?

LynnS said...

Your seeds look like bugs that would creep me out. Too many leg-thingies!

You've earned my utmost respect now. Anyone who could hold-over the best carrots to plant the following year and not eat them is more of a gardener than a gastronome. Hat tip to you!

Mr. H. said...

Stefaneener,

You know, I have never seen Queen Anne's Lace. Lucky for me it does not grow in my immediate area so I don't have to worry about my seeds crossing with the wild ones.

The muslin bags worked great on my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. I would say that about 70+% of the crops I bagged have fruited. Now I just need them to finish ripening...fingers crossed.

Mr. H. said...

Lynn,

The seeds remind me of the killer robots in the old 1984 Tom Selleck movie "Runaway."

The Gingerbread House said...

Wish I had seen this post before I hastly took up the scrany little carrots I had.
I was afraid of not gaining anything for the work I had done to plant them...Now I know I would have been better off to let them just stay there and go to seed...Oh Well! maybe next year :o( Ginny

~Holly~ said...

What a facinating post! I've never seen carrots go to seed before. I'm excited to save some seeds this season!

Mr. H. said...

Ginny - Any carrots that go to seed the first year are not worth saving as they are doing so prematurely. So you did good by pulling them up if this was the case as the seed saved and planted from them might also go straight to seed rather than forming a nice carrot for you. Now if you leave a few carrots in the garden over the winter and then they go to seed that is good seed to save as they are behaving like a biennial should.

Mr. H. said...

Holly - When I first did this with carrots I was so surprised at how they looked...nothing at all like the "cleaned" ones in seed packets. This is one of the fun parts about saving ones own seed.:) Good luck with your seed saving endevours.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

This is a big surprise. I have never imagined that it is thorny before they are put in seed packet. Now I regret pulling out the ones that bolted last spring after overwinter.I have seen other umbellifers bolting, but now I think carrot is the most interesting one that I have ever seen so far. When they bolt to they take up lots of space?

Mr. H. said...

Malay-Kadazan girl - They grow to be about 4 feet tall but do not take up all that much room. It is quite interesting to watch them develop seeds...I was so surprised at how they looked the first time I grew them out for seed.

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